A defense lawyer is calling for calm after death threats have been made against teenagers charged in the death of 15-year-old Phoebe Prince, who committed suicide after she was allegedly bullied by schoolmates.
“Not to minimize what happened to Phoebe Prince in any way, but translating this into death threats and public harassment has got to stop,” says Colin Keefe, who represents Sharon Chanon Velazquez, accused of tormenting Prince, who hanged herself on Jan. 14.
“It’s gotten way out of control,” adds Keefe, who says Velazquez has been driven temporarily from her home.
COVER STORY: Why Was Phoebe Prince Bullied?
Indictments against six teenagers were announced late last month, including felony counts against three 16-year-old South Hadley, Mass., girls who will be tried in juvenile court. Last week, prosecutors detailed the allegations against the defendants in court papers.
O’Keefe declines to comment on the specific allegations, saying any comments could hurt the defense. But, he believes, “Public opinion will change drastically when the full story is out.”
A lawyer for co-defendant Austin Renaud, 18, who is charged with statutory rape but not with harassing the Irish immigrant prior to her suicide, says his client has been “vilified.”
“He’s an 18-year-old kid who’s scared to death of his future,” says attorney Terrence Dunphy.
Also, a woman mistaken for a relative of defendant Kayla Narey received a barrage of threats after Narey’s name surfaced on the Internet. And Darby O’Brien, who has served as a spokesman for the Prince family, and the school superintendent Gus Sayer, have also said they have received threats in recent weeks.
Calls to South Hadley police regarding the death threats were not immediately returned.
• With reporting by DIANE HERBST